James Spencer Sr. was born on Wednesday, February 15th of 1957 in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania to his father that was also a racer, Ed Spencer Sr.; his father had the nickname “Fast Eddie” for his wins around the modified series.
During his days racing Modifieds, Jimmy was nicknamed "Mr. Excitement" for his aggressive racing style.
Jimmy Spencer followed his father in racing. Spencer started in Late Models in Pennsylvania and in 1976 he won his very first race in the Late Model division at the Port Royal Speedway.
In 1984, Spencer raced 60 races in the National Modified Series and finished second in the points to competitor Richie Evans. When NASCAR changed the National Modified Championship into the smaller-schedule Winston (Whelen) Modified Tour in 1985, Spencer continued to run, and won the title in 1986 and 1987.
Jimmy made his first NASCAR Busch (Nationwide) Series start in 1985 at the North Carolina (Rockingham) Motor Speedway in the #67 Frank Cicci Racing Pontiac; he finished 19th.
Jimmy’s first son James Spencer Jr. was born in 1986. Jimmy said when he was born that if he wanted to race he was going to help him.
In 1987 Spencer ran twice in the Frank Cicci Racing Pontiac in the Busch (Nationwide) Series with a best finish of 36th.
Jimmy ran his first full season in 1988, finishing seventh in the Busch (Nationwide) point standings in the #34.
In 1989, Spencer won his first career Busch (Nationwide) race at the Hickory Motor Speedway; he then won two more races over the course of the season, finishing fifteenth in the final standings.
In 1989, he made the move to the Winston (Sprint) Cup Series, driving the #88 Crisco Pontiac for Buddy Baker's team in 17 of the 29 races. With three top-tens he finished 34th in points.
He then ran a full-time season in 1990 in the Winston (Sprint) Cup series. He finished in the top-ten twice in the #57 Heinz Rod Osterlund Racing Pontiac; he finished 24th in the points.
In 1991, Spencer moved to the #98 Banquet Frozen Foods Chevrolet for Travis Carter Motorsports; he had 12 DNF (Did not finish) s, and six top tens which resulted in a 25th place finish in the Winston (Sprint) Cup points.
Jimmy began 1992 with Travis Carter Motorsports, but he later moved down to the Busch (Nationwide) Series to drive the #20 Daily's 1st Ade Oldsmobile for Dick Moroso after Carter's team withdraw from NASCAR early in the season. He won twice that year in the Busch (Nationwide) Series, once at the Myrtle Beach Speedway and the other at Orange County Speedway. In the last four races of the Winston (Sprint) Cup series Jimmy finished in the top five three times with Bobby Allison Motorsports.
In 1993 he signed to drive Bobby Allison's #12 Meineke Ford Thunderbird full-time in the Winston (Sprint) Cup series. Jimmy finished in the top-five five times, resulting in a career-best fifteenth-place in the final points standings.
In 1994, Jimmy switched to drive the #27 McDonald's Ford for Junior Johnson, that #27 was one of the most desired rides at the time because of the reputation Junior Johnson had; in the time he was with Junior that year Spencer won his only two career Cup races, at the series biggest tracks, Daytona and Talladega; he also won his first career pole at the series shortest track, North Wilkesboro Speedway. He finished 29th in the standings.
Spencer left Junior Johnson’s team after 1994 to reunite with Travis Carter, who was now fielding the #23, Smokin' Joe's Ford; he finished in the top-ten four times in 1995.
In 1998, Winston Cigarettes became his team's new primary sponsor; about half-way through the season when he went to the Brickyard 400 Spencer wrecked and suffered injuries that prevented him from racing in the next two events which dropped him to 14th in points. Midway during the season Spencer created his own NASCAR team, Spencer Motor Ventures. He fielded the #12 Zippo Chevrolet in the Busch (Nationwide) Series in which he and several other drivers shared.
In 1999 Spencer expanded his Busch (Nationwide) Series to 2 cars. He fielded the #12 Zippo Chevrolet and the #5 Schneider National Chevrolet. The #5 car went to Dick Trickle for this year. In the Winston (Sprint) Cup series Jimmy finished 20th in the points.
In 2000, Winston Cigarettes left the Travis Carter team, and K-mart became the team's new sponsor, causing Spencer to switch to the #26 to accommodate the new sponsor, who was already backing the #66 car driven by Spencer's teammate, Darrell Waltrip. Spencer’s Busch (Nationwide) team moved up to the Winston (Sprint) Cup with Boris Said running the #23 Federated Auto Parts Ford. Due to sponsor issues the team shut down at the end of the year.
Spencer had two top-fives and in 2001 won the pole at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway, he had three top fives, and eight top tens but sadly had 7 DNF’s but he did advance to sixteenth in points. He left Travis Carter’s has Carter team at the end of the season. 2001 was a memorable season for Jimmy as he went over $2 million in season winnings for the first time in his 13-year Winston (Sprint) Cup career, ending up with $2,669,638.
In 2002 Spencer joined Chip Ganassi Racing’s #41 Target Dodge Intrepid. He began the season by failing to qualify for the Daytona 500, then had a streak of four top-five qualifying efforts, including at Bristol Motor Speedway, where he started fourth and was leading the race when he was bumped by Kurt Busch, who then won, starting a long rivalry between the two. After another DNQ (Did not qualify) at Watkins Glen International Raceway, Spencer was released from the ride at the end of the season, causing him to file a lawsuit against the Ganassi organization, saying his dismissal was a violation of his contract. He also won his last Busch (Nationwide) Series race at Bristol driving for James Finch that season in the #1 Chevy.
Spencer started driving the Ultra Motorsports #7 Sirius Satellite Radio Dodge in 2003. He had four top-tens during the season, but at the running of the GFS Marketplace 400, Spencer had a confrontation with Kurt Busch. Busch intentionally stopped in front of Spencer's garage and revved his engine as a threat to block Spencer, Jimmy confronted Busch and punched him in the face. Spencer and Busch were both fined and placed on probation for the rest of the year, and Spencer was suspended for one race. Spencer ended the season 29th in points. In the Craftsman (Camping World) Truck Series Jimmy ran three races in Ultra motorsports #2 Team ASE Racing Dodge, he won the pole in his very first race and won his very first race in only his second start at the New Hampshire International Speedway; that win made him one of only a few drivers to win a race in all three of NASCAR’s top series. Part of the way through the 2003 season Jimmy bought into the Frank Cicci Racing organization but later that partnership vanished when he bought into Bang! Racing in the Craftsman (Camping World) Truck Series.
He began 2004 with Ultra Motorsport’s NEXTEL (Sprint) Cup team at the Daytona 500, but when the team closed down due to a lack of sponsorship, he replaced Kevin Lepage at Morgan-McClure Motorsports, which had also been running unsponsored. Spencer's best finish that season had been 13th, when on October 25, he was arrested after trying to interfere with the police, who had a warrant to arrest his son, James Spencer Jr., for "injury to personal property”. The incident cost Spencer his job at Morgan-McClure, and he sat out the rest of 2004.
Spencer returned to the #2 Ultra Motorsports Truck team in 2005. While he failed to win a race, he had nine top-ten finishes and finished twelfth in points. He also ran part-time in Cup, running nine races in the #50 Arnold Motorsports Dodge, and one race apiece for Peak Fitness Racing and R&J Racing.
When Arnold was unable to locate a sponsor and Ultra closed its Truck team doors following a fallout with the Ford Motor Company, Spencer began working full-time on SPEED in 2006. He had run both Cup races at Pocono Raceway for Furniture Row Racing in 2006, finishing 32nd and 36th, respectively.
He is currently a co-host with John Roberts and Kenny Wallace on the Speed Channel's prerace and post race NASCAR shows NASCAR RaceDay and NASCAR Victory Lane. Throughout Spencer’s career he helped Brent Sherman and Stuart Kirby go through the ranks of NASCAR.
One thing Spencer does for fun in to go out to his custom-made dirt track in his backyard and race with his friends, he also golf’s, and ironically enjoys working with flowers in his garden.